Stay SCARI – How I Stay Safe While Solo Traveling

One of the things I get asked about the most when I talk to people about my experiences traveling solo is how I stay safe. Safety is essential to me. So, I have a lot of things that I do to keep myself secure when alone. Honestly, most of the tips are very standard and to the point. But, besides the self-defense courses and items that I have, I also developed a little way to remember my top safety tips. Stay SCARI.

S: Be Smart

This is a pretty simple one, and basically, cuts right to the chase.

First of all, do your research. If someplace is notoriously not the safest place to visit, even in a group, don’t go alone. There are several blogs and websites that can share insight on the safest countries and cities to travel to as a solo female (or male). Make sure you look at where your hotel is on Google Maps first. That way, you can confirm it’s in a good area and close to at least most of what you’re hoping to see. Request to be on a higher floor and book cars to and from the airport in advance (especially if you have very late or very early flights). And, make sure someone always knows where you are.

Before I go anywhere alone, I create an itinerary to note my general plans. I also add my hotel address, phone number, confirmation, and flight information and send it to my parents and older brother. That way, if they can’t get in touch with me for some reason, they know whether I’m doing something or if they should worry.

Don’t go to sketchy places. Carry some sort of self-defense item, even if it’s just a whistle or something. Don’t drink too much, and most importantly, do not tell everyone you meet that you’re by yourself!

C: Be Creative

This one goes in two directions.

First of all, be creative with your story. Minimal information is critical when talking to people around the area you’re visiting. One of my favorite parts of traveling solo is creating a whole new persona. I can give a fake name, say I’m from a different city, and have a different job. If people ask me if I’m meeting someone, I always say that either a friend is coming into town the following day. Or, that my boyfriend/fiance/brother/dad (any male relative) is on his way from the airport as we speak. When it comes to restaurants or bars, I try not to go to the same place more than once to maintain my “story”. I have told someone that I’m alone before, but it’s very much based on the situation and the vibe the person gives out.

II also like to research other hotels in the area. Then, if someone asks what hotel I’m staying at, I know the name of one that I can say instead without thinking about it.

Also, when it comes to self-defense and safety items, sometimes you have to be creative. I’d heard of these hotel door safety locks but quickly learned that they don’t fit on a lot of hotel doors. Instead, I take a hand towel and fold and roll it up to stuff it behind the door handle on my side of the room. This will make it harder for anyone to move the handle. Or, even just a basic doorstop that you can stick under the door on your side. Even if someone managed to get the door unlocked, it would be hard for them to open it. Which would give you a minute to prepare. Be able to use what’s around you, no matter where you are.

A: Be Aware

Again, this one is a give-in! For the love of God, please do not walk around with your face in your phone. You shouldn’t be doing that anytime or anywhere, but especially not when traveling to a new place by yourself! The same thing goes for walking around with earphones in – don’t do it.

Trust your gut. If someone is giving you a bad vibe, stop interacting and leave. If something doesn’t feel right, stop. Take note of your surroundings, listen to your intuition, and be ready to react at any moment. I’m going to be honest with you, if you don’t have good situational awareness or know-how to take inventory of your surroundings or aren’t usually able to tell when something isn’t “right,” I wouldn’t recommend traveling solo. It’s important to be aware at all times. This is especially when true when it comes to heading back to your hotel – make sure that nobody is following you!

R: Be Responsible

Listen, I know that one of the most appealing factors of solo travel is engaging with the men (or women) of the area (hello, France). And I’m not going to tell you that you can’t have fun because you can. But, you have to be responsible about it. Even though I’m a big believer in not letting people know where you’re staying, I do think it’s safer to go back to your hotel than to their place. Use my Google Voice trick if they ask for a phone number. Don’t drink too much if you’re going to be alone with someone you just met. Be responsible.

This also means learning the customs of the area so that you don’t stick out too much. Make sure that you’re respecting their traditions and aren’t dressing in a way that will totally expose you as a tourist. Don’t do anything illegal, obviously. Just try not to draw too much attention to yourself. The best way to avoid this is by being responsible and knowing how to behave in advance.

I: Be Able to Improvise

My final tip is to be able to improvise. Sometimes, you’ll slip up and forget your fake name or give something away. You’ll say you’re traveling alone in front of a group of people and you’re going to need to be able to come up with something on the spot. Try to learn more than one way back to your hotel. When going abroad, I try to stay places that have a hotel shuttle, but if they don’t offer one try to be ready in case you need to change course.

Also, if you go to do an activity that suddenly doesn’t feel “right,” have a backup plan in place! Time is precious when on vacation so make sure you’re ready with a Plan B. You don’t have to miss out on everything just because you’re alone. Just be careful.

I realize my tips might make it seem like traveling alone is scary, but honestly, it’s not. You just need to be prepared and, well, “scarier” than any potential issues.

As a bonus, here are some of my favorite self-defense items:

10 Reasons Why I Love Traveling Solo

I love traveling solo – it’s fun, empowering, and I’ve had great experiences so far. But I get many people asking me why I like it so much, and if there are any things that I don’t like about it. So, here’s my Top 10 list of why I love traveling soo – and three things that I don’t.

1. I get to do what I want!

This is a pretty obvious reason. When I travel solo, I get to see what I want, when I want. There’s no, “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” back-and-forth all day. If I want to go into a store, I go. If I’m crazing pizza, I don’t have to worry about if someone is craving tacos. 

It’s healthy to be a bit selfish and put yourself first sometimes, and if I’m going to spend money on a trip, I want to make sure that it’s (mostly) spent the way I want to. I’m more into history and culture than a lot of my friends – I wouldn’t drag them to museums, and then I’d be disappointed we didn’t go. I’ve never been to Vegas before – but I’ve been invited. Still, I’ve never gone because I would want to see shows, not just party, so I wouldn’t want to go somewhere that I wouldn’t be able to have a trip that I would actually enjoy. Traveling solo means that I get to have the trip I want guilt-free.

2. I don’t have to wait around.

My friends are great, but some spend half their day getting ready to go out. I am not about that life. I am the friend who sets an alarm even on vacation so I have time to work out and enjoy my coffee before venturing out for the day, so if I did that just to spend the next four hours waiting for my friend to get ready, I’d spend the whole trip annoyed. I’m not always the most punctual of people, but I’m usually within 5-10 minutes of on time. If I can’t rely on some of my friends to make it to a brunch reservation within the hour we had reserved, I’m not sure that traveling will be a fun and no-stress experience.

3. I can be more flexible and adaptable.

On my recent trip to Greece, I decided that I didn’t want to do the horseback riding tour I’d booked anymore because it would change the type of trip I was having. So, I canceled it. I like having the freedom to change my plans. If I realize I want more time at one place or less at another, I can. It’s easier to be flexible when you’re on your own, and I’ve found that flexibility is a must in travel.

4. It’s easier – and more comfortable – to plan

I get it; everyone has different budgets and comfort levels. I don’t spend much money on ‘things.’ I cook and drink primarily at home. I prioritize saving money for travel to afford the type of vacations that I like to take. I’d rather splurge on a hotel than one night out. But, of course, not everyone is like that, and that’s okay! But I have learned that it’s difficult to overcome when attempting to plan travel with friends. 

I will never be okay with staying at a hostel – I did that in college, and it was enough. I don’t need a luxury resort, but I like to feel safe, comfortable, and know that where I’m staying provides at least a bit more than the bare minimum. But it can be hard to find a compromise with friends who are okay with hostels and only the basics, and I’ve found that things rarely get planned when there are such differences in comfort levels and budgets. 

Solo day trip to Seville, Spain.

5. I get to meet new people and make friends.

I’m a very social and outgoing person. I love meeting new people, and I’ve been able to meet some great people by traveling solo. Not having a friend or someone there as a “buffer” forces me to put myself out there. I’ve had so many fun conversations with people because if I wanted to talk to someone, I had to be brave! Getting to know the people is a great way to get to know the culture of where you are. I’ve had so many people strike up conversations with me once they see I’m alone (and not in a creepy way). Talking to strangers and making friends in new cities is a great way to build confidence, and I’ve found it’s easier to do so when you’re traveling alone.

6. I feel confident and empowered.

It’s a great feeling to do something outside your comfort zone, and I always feel empowered AF during and after a trip. Especially when people I meet constantly tell me how cool and brave it is to travel solo and how impressed they are, it’s a nice little confidence boost. I like knowing that I’m confident enough – and secure enough – to do something special for myself. I believe in accepting and loving yourself first and foremost. To me, solo travel is the ultimate way to ‘date’ and love myself.

7. I don’t miss out.

Especially when traveling internationally, if you’re going somewhere, you want to make sure you make the most out of it. Traveling with others, or especially a big group, you can easily run the risk of not getting to see everything you wanted due to lack of time. Or, you do, but your friends didn’t, which also sucks. Also, if an opportunity comes up that you’re dying to do, but it overlaps with other plans, that’s never fun. For the record, I’m a big believer in compromise. When traveling with family or no-stress friends, I’m happy to check out things that might not have been #1 on my list. Still, it’s nice to give yourself opportunities where you’re only doing what you want.  

Mamma Mia! My trip to Santorini, Greece

Did you really think I was going to write a post completely dedicated to Greece and NOT make a “Mamma Mia” reference?

To think that I almost didn’t go to Greece. In the week or two leading up to going, I was just not as excited for some reason. But, honestly, I’ve been in a weird place lately. So, I think I was just getting myself anxious and paranoid over nothing. But I am SO glad that I went.

The Journey

I had a long layover in Paris, France, where I had planned on going to Brussels and back. That trip would have made Belgium the 29th country I’ve been to, so Greece would be #30. That did not happen.

After two flights already – Boston to Atlanta, and Atlanta to Paris – I was exhausted. When I got to Paris, and I finally found my way out of the airport, I decided to first stop at my hotel. I desperately needed to take some things out of my bag. Then, I decided to take the train from Charles De Gaulle airport to the station in Paris, where I’d take the train to Brussels. The Universe had other plans, though. 

As I walked in, a policeman came up to me and started speaking very quickly and loudly in French. I thought maybe I’d gone in the wrong way, so I asked him if I had done something wrong. He started spouting off in French again, at which point I stopped him and asked if he could say everything he’d just said but in English. It turns out something had happened at baggage claim – right by the train station – and it was “very dangerous,” so they were evacuating. That meant no trains. I looked into taking the bus, but it would have taken forever, and I’d have missed my train. Also, cabs were way too expensive and would still take a long time. So, I decided not to go. (Side note, next time I’m in Paris, I am absolutely taking a Moto Uber).

Instead, I went to Paris for a few hours. Which, I can’t (and won’t) complain about. I didn’t have a plan; I just asked which bus would take me close to something cool and ended up near the Opera House. Fitting, since I love to sing. And there was a little area named “Madeleine” right by it! After that, I went to Sephora (of course) because I needed nail polish to fix my manicure. I walked into some other shops, had dinner, and got some macarons before heading back to my hotel to get some sleep. I had an early flight the next day. 

Honestly, being in Paris for the few hours I was there that day reminded me even more of how much I love it. I could see myself doing some “Emily in Paris” type of thing – except, you know, “Madeline in Paris.” To start, even though everyone says French people are rude, I don’t get that. Everyone I encountered was so friendly and helpful. I mean, in the stores, I had some women like push past me, but that happens everywhere.

Also, French guys LOVE me. I have some theories for why that I won’t get into. Still, I can easily say that one French guy made me feel more appreciated, more beautiful, and more understood, and was just generally more romantic than every other guy I’ve been with – combined. So, I like French guys. They like me. It’s a match. What I’m getting at is that I’ve decided I need to marry a French guy, so moving to Paris seems to make sense in making that happen. 

But I’m digressing. So, let’s move on to Greece. 

After a flight delay with no communication and a 3-hour flight sitting in what was probably the most uncomfortable airplane seat, and the least amount of legroom I have ever experienced, I arrived in Santorini! 

I got to my hotel, Petit Palace, and oh my goodness, it was beyond beautiful. Check-in was a breeze, and my room was gorgeous. So spacious, the bathroom was huge, and the view from my balcony was insane. I could not believe that I would get to walk out to that view every morning of my trip!

After a quick late lunch at the hotel, I took the shuttle into Fira, the main town in Santorini. I honestly didn’t know what to expect, but it was so fun! It’s filled with cute shops, bars, and restaurants. There were so many stores that sold custom shoes; I was fascinated. 

I was already regretting not bringing a good hat on my trip, so I got a cute sun hat, found a place that sells alcohol to-go and had my first Aperol Spritz, and snagged a great spot to watch my first Santorini sunset. It was gorgeous; I took so many photos. After, I went back to my hotel and got some sleep to get ready for my first full day.

Day One

My first trip adventure was a vineyard tour and wine tasting that I did with Santorini Wine Tours, and I honestly could not recommend it enough. We visited three local vineyards; there are so many great vineyards there that I think they change it up. I can’t remember the third name, but the first was Art Space Wine, and the second was Artemis Karamolegos. I think the third was Venetsanos, which is one of the most famous ones. At each place, we also had some food like cheese and crackers and things. So many olives, I loved it.

At the last spot, we also had a fantastic view of the caldera too. I was with three couples, and they were all so lovely, we had a wonderful time. I tried different types of Assyrtiko (which I love) and a few other types of wine, I liked them all. Even the dessert one! Nobody else did, but I like the sweet stuff. 

After the wine tour, I went back to my hotel and relaxed before walking from Fira to Imerovigli. Google Maps and my hotel told me it would only take 25 minutes, but it took me almost an hour. It was uphill, mostly, and in heeled sandals! Then again, I did go a kind of weird way to avoid this guy from my shuttle who was trying to get me to invite him to hang out with me. 

I was able to get a last-minute reservation at The Wine Bar, which was honestly probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had. To drink, I had the Santorini Spritz to drink and the shrimp saganaki. I also had a PRIME view of the sunset. Everyone told me Oia had the best sunsets, but, spoiler alert, Imerovigli was my favorite. It was also probably my favorite town in Santorini, but I was just getting started!

Fira sunset

Day Two

On my second day, I was initially planning on doing a horseback riding tour on one of the black beaches, but I decided to cancel it and spend the morning by the pool instead. I had a visit from a stray dog while I was there! I think she was pregnant. Then, I took the shuttle to Fira and, from there, the bus to Oia. 

My first stop was an essential visit to a cafe for an iced coffee, or “frappe.” Then, I wandered around the shops – there are so many! Everyone was so kind and welcoming; I ended up having so many conversations with people. Greek people are great. I wanted to visit Atlantis Books, but sadly it ended up being closed the week I was there. So instead, I started to do a bit of souvenir shopping for my family and eyed some gorgeous jewelry (someday!).

I also walked to the castle overlook and got some perfect shots of the view. Then I wandered some more before I had dinner. I found a place called Thalami, and I was thrilled because they had spanikopita, one of my favorite foods. I tried the Mediterranean pasta – I could honestly eat a whole bowl of their capers. The food there is so fresh and so delicious. I miss it already. 

After dinner, I thought about staying for the sunset, but it was just so crowded. So, instead, I found a spot where I could see the start of it and then took the bus back to Fira. I had a glass of wine at Town Bar and chatted with the bartender and another employee for a bit. The bartender told me that she gets solo travelers a lot, but my “story” was that my friend/former roommate was joining me from Greece the next day. But, they confirmed that my name is Greek – which someone the day before told me it wasn’t – and we talked about astrology.

Then, I went back to my hotel to get some sleep! There was one couple from New Jersey and Florida that I ran into almost every time I took the shuttle – isn’t there always that one person/family you see multiple times on a trip? We always had them when we went on cruises. I guess they were the Greece version.

One Night in Montreal

22 hours in Canada.

There’s something that you should know about me.

When I set my mind to something and have a goal in mind, it is nearly impossible to get me to let it go. I can be single-minded at times, and my 30 by 30 goal is no exception. So as soon as the world started to open up again post-pandemic, my restless, travel-loving self was anxious to get back to crossing some places off the list.

Believe it or not, despite living in Boston for so long, I have never been to Canada. When I was in college, there was this big “ski” weekend that many of the sororities and fraternities would do. They’d go to Montreal to “ski,” aka a bit of skiing, but a lot of drinking, too. I was in a sorority, so I was invited, but I never went. In college, I just wasn’t into drinking or partying a lot. I was a late bloomer in several ways. So anyway, that was pretty much my only chance to go to Canada, and I never took it. I was planning to cruise to Canada last year but canceled it even before COVID because of the job I had at the time. So I decided that Canada should be my next stop before risking it closing up again.

I picked a day and was extremely excited to find out that Montreal has a Sofitel. When I had a long layover at London Gatwick Airport, I stayed at a Sofitel and it was the most comfortable bed I have ever slept on. Obviously, I immediately booked a room there. I downloaded the ArriveCAN app, got my COVID test, and set off for just under a 5-hour drive to Montreal.

Honestly, the drive was not bad at all. It’s actually a beautiful drive, even though it rained for most of it. I saw parts of New Hampshire and Vermont that I hadn’t seen before. I was also weirdly amused by the “Moose Crossing” and “Bear Crossing” signs. When I got to the border, it was easy sailing going through. The hardest part was not oversharing too much. Whenever I’m questioned like that, I always feel like maybe I DID do something wrong. I definitely went way too into detail on some questions, though. But I made it through! After that, it was just another hour or so to Montreal.

I really thought that Montreal would have traffic signs in both French and English. But, I quickly learned that was not the case. I was grateful that my dad reminded me to switch my speedometer to KM instead of MPH, and I was grateful for the bit of French I knew that I could understand where I was going. I made it to my hotel safely, got checked in and settled, and then set out.

My first stop was to Tim Horton’s because that is basically the most quintessentially “Canada” thing I can think of. Well, besides poutine, which I won’t eat. I hate gravy, sorry. It was not as exciting or impressive as I thought it might be, but caffeine is caffeine, so it served its purpose. After that, I just walked around for a while, exploring the area near my hotel. I saw a really beautiful art museum and some cool sculptures outside, a pretty park, and interesting buildings. I picked a cute little brasserie not too far from my hotel for dinner because I was starving. The bartender there was so sweet. He gave me so many tips. I wish I had been there for more than one night. He told me so many places to try and gave me a glass of wine on the house. My cheeseburger was delicious, too.

After that, I went back to my hotel to call it an early night. I slept SO well in the amazing Sofitel bed, and in the morning, I set off to see more of Montreal. I found out that the other thing they’re famous for is bagels, so I figured that was a good thing to try. Unfortunately for Canada, my family is from New York/New Jersey. When it comes to bagels, I am VERY picky and have high standards, so while the bagel wasn’t bad, I have absolutely had better.

After breakfast, I wandered down to Notre Dame Cathedral. Sadly, I couldn’t go inside, but the outside is absolutely gorgeous. Then I strolled through the Old Montreal area and went inside some cute little shops and bakeries before making my way to La Grande Roue de Montreal, which is kind of like their London Eye. The views were amazing. The whole area was pretty cute; actually, they had some little stands and games set up. It was cool.

After that, I figured it was time to get on the road soon. First, I went through this massive market but found that many shops were closed because of COVID. If I go back, hopefully, more will be open. Then I made my way back to my hotel and started my drive back to Boston. Once again, it was easy to get through the border. I was happy to be back in the land of miles per hour and English traffic signs.

If I’m honest, the best part of the trip was that I took a bit longer on the way back so that I could go to Ben and Jerry’s headquarters and get ice cream. They also have a “flavor graveyard” with headstones for all of their retired flavors. I loved it.

And that was my overnight trip to Montreal! Altogether, I think I was there for like 22 hours, but it was good to see and get a taste of it. Of course, I also got to cross it off my list – bringing me to 28!

I would love to go back to Canada someday because the people were so sweet, and I’m sure there’s so much more to see and do, but I wasn’t overly impressed with Montreal. Maybe if the weather was nicer or if I’d brought clothes (and had the energy) to go to one of the speakeasies, I’d feel differently. But, I’ll give it another chance someday.

Have you been to Canada before? What’s your favorite city there?

30 by 30 Goal

I’m lucky enough to have traveled to several different countries – Argentina, Belize, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany, to name a few. So a couple of years ago, realizing that I had been to 27 different countries already, I created a goal for myself – I wanted to visit 30 different countries by the time I turned 30.

I was doing pretty well on that, I’d been to 27 by 27 so this didn’t seem impossible. After working in hospitality for most of my career years, I finally got out of the industry and found something more stable so that I’d be able to take time off of work to make some big trips – and get paid better, too. I found a job at a study abroad organization, so it seemed perfect. I even applied and got approved for a travel rewards credit card. But then COVID happened, so obviously, traveling was put on the back burner.

Now, as the world reopens, I’m determined to reach that goal! I just got to 28 by visiting Canada for one night, and I have a trip booked to Greece coming up. Thanks to an extra-long layover in Paris, I think I’m going to be able to take a quick train ride to cross another country off my list, too… Belgium.

I decided to start a travel section of my blog because traveling is so important to me. As a Sagittarius, I love adventure, exploring new places, learning about different cultures, and it’s a great way to keep my restless self entertained and not bored. I thrive on change and being someplace new, and I’ve missed being able to travel lately.

Before I go to Greece and *officially* start my travel blog where I talk about actual trips, I thought I’d start this off by giving a one-sentence review or synopsis of the 28 countries I’ve already been to. People often ask me for travel advice, and I’m excited to start writing about something that I’m so passionate about. But, here’s a start.

1. Argentina (Buenos Aires)
The airline lost our luggage, and we wore the same clothes for 2 days, but it was beautiful, and I had the best pizza of my life.

2. Belize (Placencia)
Absolutely gorgeous, incredibly kind people, delicious food, and overall one of my favorite places except that I almost got attacked by a sea turtle.

3. Costa Rica
I got the worst sunburn of my life here, but I also went back years later and visited a sloth sanctuary, but our tour guide fell in love with me (I was 16 and he literally proposed), so it’s a 50/50 from me strictly because of the sloths.

4. Mexico (Cozumel)
All I remember is going to a Senor Frog’s and seeing a middle-aged woman have someone take a belly button shot off of her – cruise port terminals are weird.

5. Panama (Panama City)
Very pretty, but the most boring train ride you could ever imagine took place here; I didn’t even remember that I’d been.

6. Antigua 
Amazing beaches and very pretty – it was a cruise destination, so that’s all I remember.

7. Aruba 
I think we did some cool Jeep tour here, it was also beautiful, and the beaches looked really nice.

8. the Bahamas
There’s nothing like a Mai Tai at the Blue Lagoon, but I still want to visit Atlantis so I can feel like Mary Kate & Ashley in “Holiday in the Sun.”

9. Barbados 
Another cruise destination – I think this might have been where my dad gave me some of his drink, forgetting they’d put Kahlua in it – it was like 3 sips, don’t worry.

10. Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman)
I had a stingray literally just chilling on my back, and I screamed bloody murder into a snorkeling mask when I realized it, but otherwise, it was great.

11. Curacao
The name is fun to say, it’s gorgeous, and I loved the colors of the buildings.

12. Dominica
We went ziplining, and the women there who were helping get us situated were obsessed with my body, and I was like 15, but it was a great confidence boost.

13. Jamaica (Ocho Rios)
Another amazing cruise destination; I definitely want to go back and see more someday.

14. St Maarten
Very friendly people and a beautiful place.